Is draft beer better than bottled beer? While there is no actual proof, anecdotal evidence is strong that some beers definitely taste better on draft. There are a few suspected reasons why the quality could be better. In an interview with Bon Appetit, Gabriel Magliaro, co-owner of Chicago’s Half Acre Beer Company says, “The biggest issues for beer are time, temperature, light, and how well a brewer did their job… Most distributors and bars keep kegs cold all the time. A consistent temperature will give that beer a huge advantage.” Unlike bottles, kegs and cans protect the beer from light at all times, but cans might not necessarily be kept cold.
Whether a beer is enjoyed more on draft also depends on the atmosphere. A draft Guinness in Dublin tastes better than a draft Guinness in Schenectady, a famous IPA at a top brewery tastes better than one in your own home, and a Miller High Life in a bottle when grilling in the yard is essential to some, but they’d never order it at a restaurant.
So while there are quality issues for sure, putting beer exposed to poor brewing conditions or spoilage by light aside, here are seven beers that real beer drinkers swear taste better on draft, and some reasons why that might be. Plus, don’t miss 10 Beers That Use the Highest Quality Ingredients.
When you think of draft vs. bottle, Guinness is the first beer that comes to people’s minds. This beer is uniquely poured on draft over a spoon to create its classic chocolate milk-like head. Each bottle has a special metal ball that tries to replicate this—called the “smoothifier—but there is no comparison with beer drinkers. Fans agree across the board. “I don’t drink a whole lot of Guinness, but I’ve always found it to be MUCH better on draft than from the bottle or can.”
Mike Sweeney a “beer guru,” founder of STL Hops, and operations manager for 2nd Shift Brewing explains in an interview, “An important (some say the most important) component of Guinness on tap is the creamy head, a result of both CO2 and nitrogen being used to deliver the beer… The use of nitrogen is what separates Guinness from most other draft beers,” he said. “The mouthfeel and that cascading effect in the glass is what makes Guinness, Guinness.”
A Redditor poses a question about why Bud Light tastes so much better at a restaurant. The responses tell a lot about how keg beer is treated versus bottled beer. Beer in a keg is often kept cold, while it’s hard to tell what happens to a bottle of beer once it leaves the production line. It could sit in the sun or be exposed to various temperatures. Many beers in bottles are also heat-pasteurized—Coors Light is famously not. Domestic beer in bottles and cans is traditionally pasteurized, says Micro Matic, while kegs are not. The beer then must be stored at 38°F to prevent spoilage, plus it doesn’t last as long as bottled beer so the drinker is getting a “fresher” product.
Genesee Cream Ale comes out of one of the oldest breweries still operating in the country. The brewery’s Cream Ale is probably the most popular seller. First brewed in 1960, it’s supposed to have the best qualities of a lager and an ale. The cream ale style was actually invented in America, a rarity for beer styles, according to Bon Appetit. And sadly, there is no actual cream in the ale, the “creaminess” being a marketing tactic, as far as anyone can tell.
As for the flavor, commenters in the Reddit thread wholeheartedly agree that, though rare, it’s amazing on draft. “Had it on tap at their brewery, and I kid you not, it was phenomenal. Tried it a couple times from a bottle and it’s like it’s not even the same beer,” said one.
Heieken needs no introduction. The signature green glass bottle with the red star is immediately recognizable. But how many have actually had it on draft? Most say that it’s so different it might as well be a different beer. “Undrinkable skunk juice in a bottle, on draft it’s tolerable,” says one. If you can’t find Heineken on draft near you, seek out their adorable mini draught kegs that fit right in your fridge.
On the same thread, one drinker agrees with Heineken and nominates Peroni as another beer that tastes better on tap. “I had the same experience with Peroni too. Peroni is super smooth on tap,” the comment reads. Though this Italian beer might be better on draft, it is rarer to see this beer on draft because the kegs need to be flown over from Italy, explains another commenter, “I’ve seen it a few times and it’s delightful.” Check out your local authentic Italian restaurants to get a pint of this pale lager.
One of the most maligned beers in the world, Natural Light is known as a cheap beer for college drinkers and for after a good lawn mowing session. Apparently, though, it’s a different experience having it on draft. “I drank a lot of canned Natural Light and keg Natural Light in college. Keg always had a smoother feel, almost like the bubbles were finer than canned,” the reviewer explains. They admit it still wasn’t an amazing experience but they definitely preferred the keg.
This IPA is not for the faint of heart or stomach at a shocking 15-20% ABV. This very hoppy beer is for serious beer drinkers only, many of whom say they prefer it on draft. It is only released once a year though, so it is notoriously hard to find. “Personally I’ve had 120 minute a handful of times (both on tap and in the bottle). It’s a great beer. Best on tap,” said one reviewer. Another said “is a life-changing experience if you can have it draft. Tastes completely different from the bottle.”